Government works best when there’s a plan. Do the requisite research, create a plan, then implement. Doing nothing is worse than being wrong. More talk always costs more. Government staff and consulting time logged during extra meetings is very expensive. If you need a reminder, get out your last tax bill. But please, don’t get me started.

I bring this up because the community is about to enter the research phase for the new Ridgeland Common facility. Ridgeland Common is a recreational and social linchpin for Oak Park. Its value is measured daily in broad grins, shouts of joy and rapid heartbeats. If we could find a way to store the energy emitted from Ridgeland Common, we could retire most of our energy problems. But that’s the trouble, the receptacle for all that energy is beginning to implode. The cost/benefit ratio associated with maintaining Ridgeland Common is swirling down the pool drain.

While I was on the park board, we had some informal conversations with the District 200 board about the village vacating Scoville Avenue just north of the elevated tracks. The park district was considering a partnership with the high school to build an indoor pool facility. Half the street would become park land and the other half would be added to the OPRF athletic fields. The new Ridgeland Common would be built on the southeast section of Scoville Avenue and Lake Street while programming would carry on at the old Ridgeland Common. When the construction ends, the programs would move to the new Ridgeland Common and the old site would be returned to nature. It was a good plan then, and I believe it still has merit. The community gets a new year-round indoor pool and other amenities with no interruption of service.

No matter how you measure the costs – by the square foot, by the ton or cubic yard – Oak Park gets more for its tax dollar with the new facility than using that same dollar for rebuilding and repairs. The costs are inevitable, but we have the chance to shape the swimming future. Let’s use some of that famous Ridgeland Common energy and join the park board in their design process.

It’s your money. Which do you wan – a new clean recreation plan or band-aids? You don’t have to look far for planning success and failure stories. Which local project are you more proud of, the new main branch of the Oak Park Public Library or the Whiteco/Colt building process? But please, don’t get me started.

Tim Kelly
Oak Park

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